American Exceptionalism | What is Money?

By Kim Payne

One of the negative comments I have read about American Exceptionalism is that we have a longer work week and work more hours than our European cousins. Is it that we are just workaholics or is there another reason?

Approximately a year and a half ago on an early Friday morning I sat in a class waiting for our instructor, Pastor Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Chapel to begin a class on citizenship. He started that class in a way none of us were expecting including Rob. On his way to class that morning he stopped for coffee and as he got out of his car and approached the shops entrance a young man stopped him and asked if he had any money he could spare. The ensuing conversation made for the classes foundation. Rob asked the young man “What is money”? With little thought the young man answered “I don’t know, its just something I need”, Rob then replied “it is because you don’t know, that you don’t have any” and then bought coffee for both of them. That question, What is money? Is how the class began. What exactly is money? The answer is thought provoking and goes way back to our Puritan foundations.

Money is a representation of a contribution made to society. When you give your time or lend your talents or skills to benefit another, you receive compensation for the effort put forth. It is an investment in our society. That contribution has value based on the effort, the talent, or the skill learned, and is the reason why many frontload their skills through training or through education to enhance the value. But it was another reason that made it unique in America. It was understood by our founders that contributing was a form of worship. We give of ourselves as a response to what we were given and that the act of contributing has a return, it builds society.

I go to work every day not because I have to, but because I get to. I am given the opportunity to work alongside others building relationships and I can do so with gratitude to Him who provides me this opportunity. That is the Puritan work ethic I inherited and one aspect that makes America unique among the nations.  

The follow on question lays the foundations of capitalism. How is wealth created? Our forefathers came to understand that when two or more parties benefit wealth is generated. In 1620 the Ship Mayflower was blown off course and did not arrive where she was expected, instead she landed in Plymouth Massachusetts. The community found themselves without a king appointed governor and so, while still on ship, the community wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact. This document is important because, for the first time in the history of mankind, it established a political body based on self government, where there was no King. With William Bradford as their leader they drew upon the New Testament where the early church shared all things in common and they enacted the very first form of government founded in America, socialism. It resulted in death for much of the community. Because the land was shared in common with each benefiting from the others labor. With the individual incentive removed, no one worked. There was so little harvested that the daily allocation per person was 3 kernels of corn and they endured starvation and death through their first winter.

After losing so many of their loved ones the decision was made to divide the land into plots making each responsible unto themselves as to whether they ate or not.  They also opted for a new form of government. A representative republic patterned after Exodus 18:21 “select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. This principle became the root of our founders establishing Federal, State, County, and City.  

When a society values a work ethic that honors the law of nature and natures God and is honest in it’s dealings, it’s money and it’s culture is strong. If it violates the laws of nature and does not honor God it will become weak and eventually collapse in chaos as is the case with socialism. The goal of socialism, what ever it might be called at the time, be it Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism is the rejection of capitalism and private property and to either eliminate the rights granted to you by your creator or to control them. It is only through individual liberty with virtue grounded in faith that freedoms bell rings true.

Kim Payne was born and raised in California.  He laughs at himself declaring that he was a crazed hippie youth when he was younger.  He grew up to be an aerospace test engineer in southern California and resides in Thousand Oaks. 

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